Aquatic invasive species: fighting an ongoing threat

The success of controlling aquatic invasive species is the result of a combination of agreements in the public and private sectors, and the work of a body of regulatory and voluntary efforts.

In the early 2000s, there was a call from several scientific, environmental and economic sectors calling for controls, standards and management frameworks for reducing the risks and damage of aquatic invasive species in Michigan. Over 182 non-indigenous aquatic species were introduced and colonized within the Great Lakes region since the 1800s. This includes algae, plants, insects, fish and viruses. Not all of these species are invasive, but that ones that are have certainly given those working to prevent or control them plenty of action.  Recently, these species include Zebra mussels, Eurasian Water milfoil, Phragmites, Carp species, cray fish and some fish viruses, to name a few.

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are particularly troublesome since they not only affect our natural environment, but also the economy. Property values, tourism, fishing industry and other businesses have fallen victim to the introduction of AIS.  Michigan, and indeed the nation, has taken action to prevent the introduction of new AIS through regulatory and voluntary efforts. Increased awareness through education, regulation governing ballast water and recreational boating, along with the adoption of additional invasive species laws are making a difference. For example, as reported in the 2013 updated AIS State Management Plan, “no new nonindigenous aquatic species have become established in the Great Lake Basin.”

Ongoing educational efforts, citizen science programs, volunteers, efforts in both the public and private sectors, continue to work at keeping the public informed. Michigan’s Clean Boats, Clean Waters program is having an impact in reducing the dispersal of AIS between inland lakes. This leads to the prevention of the disruption of food webs, biodiversity, ecosystem stability, the degradation of habitat, fitness, and number of native species and water quality. Additionally, continued efforts help to preserve water quality, waterfront property values, tourism industry, fishery resources, infrastructure and equipment. One way you can help in the fight against AIS and help to stop aquatic hitchhikers is to become a Michigan Clean Boats, Clean Waters Hero by going to and click on “Join the Fight.”

For more information about the Clean Boats, Clean Waters program, or aquatic invasive species contact Beth Clawson, MSU Extension Educator. To learn more about invasive organisms and invasive aquatic plants contact Michigan State University Extension Natural Resources educators who are working across Michigan to provide aquatic invasive species educational programming and assistance. 

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